Expansion set for Norway

Norway’s domestic league is to expand to five for the new season, beginning in May, but is calling on the support of businesses to help them realise their ambitions.

Formed initially by school teacher Justin Ryan, Norge Rugby League has evolved in to an affiliate nation of the RLEF and is trying to establish itself as a presence on rugby league’s international map.

A successful domestic campaign was enjoyed in 2010 with four teams, and an additional team is to be added for the 2011 season, which begins on May 21st. They hope to expand further to seven teams in 2012.

Amateur side Saddleworth Rangers will be making the trip to Norway in May for the annual Scandinavia 9s competition, which includes all the domestic Norway teams, as well as invitational sides from Sweden, Denmark and Czech Republic.

President Warren Heilig, formerly a semi-professional player with London Skolars, said: “We at RLN are trying to get more of the norwegian people to not only be aware of the sport but to try it out and become a fan. We have been working very hard to get the game growing and we are proud to say that we now have a domestic league with five clubs and next year looks like going to seven clubs.

“As well as having clubs growing we have set our sights on having an u17s competition up and running next year.

“It may not be big in the grand scheme of things but rome wasn’t built in a day, and we have to start the conveyor-belt of players somewhere so we are heading in the right direction with getting Norway to be a rugby league nation for our sport to be proud of. If someone had told you ten years ago that rugby league is now being played in Scandinavia with a domestic comp and an International side, you would have been laughed at and told that you were dillusional.

“Well not anymore and our sport should be proud of the rapid growth it has experienced throughout Europe, but to be honest we should not be surprised. The game simply sells itself!”

But as with many development clubs and nations, Norway faces a constant battle with finance. All clubs are asked to come up with £1500 to fund kit and equipment, and the league is continuing to seek sponsorship to help keep it afloat and progress.

Heilig added: “Clubs need £1500 each, but the league will always take any sponsorship from whoever is wanting to help out. At the moment we have one major sponsor for the domstic league which helps us buy certain things to start up like post pads, corner pasts and pads and our own mobile goalposts to use at different grounds used throughout the league. RLN are currently £2000 behind budget to get us all set up and ready for our biggest year of rugby league ever.”

Awareness of the game is continuing to grow, however, with a broadcast deal soon to be signed which will see Super League games shown on terrestrial television, and Heilig is pushing to have a 30 second advert, detailing the sport, its rules and how to get involved, before, during and after the live coverage.

And even better than that, one of Norway’s national team players owns a production company, enabling regular videos of match action and interviews to be published via YouTube.

Heilig said: “Along with televising a domestic game each week from the premiership we will also be doing a 15 min talkshow called Norsk League Talk which will be done each week with all the news on whats happening in the local league scene as well as player and coachinterviews and other fun entertaining things to make our league show fun and interesting.”

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